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Where I recap a successful run

by John on October 18th, 2011
Hershey Start Line

This weekend was full. I’d love to qualify it with “full of somethings,” but it was just plain full. Friday, I took a half day at work, picked up my kids, had dinner with my mom, sister, and the family, and then played a show. On Saturday, I woke up early, drove down to Baltimore for a very fun day at the aquarium with the family and some good friends, drove back and played a show. On Sunday, I woke up early, ran a half-marathon, played a show, and then passed out from exhaustion.

However, that half-marathon I ran . . . well, it deserves a bit of a tale here.

I woke up, thoroughly exhausted, on Sunday morning. See, I got back from playing Guys & Dolls a little after 11, and I wasn’t feeling all that hot, so I took some cold medicine, and a Tylenol PM, and went to bed. Four hours later, I was awake, and an hour after that, I got out of bed just before the alarm went off.

I took a long shower1 (during which I used the neti pot to drain my sinuses and then proceeded to cough, productively, which was no fun), dressed2, and left to pick up my sister. Before heading into Hershey Park, we stopped to get some coffee, because, um, priorities! We arrived at the park at about 6:15 for an 8:00 race, which is normally where I like to be. It gives me a good 45 minutes to get my packet and my number, then another 45 minutes to warm up & chat, and then I’m off.

Only, well, there was no line when we got there . . . so it took me a whole minute to register. I had an hour & a half, and it was cold.

So Jessica & I walked around for awhile . . . we found a few people who ran the race the last year, and we walked around some more. We watched the walkers leave at 7, and then we walked around, peed a few times3 and started to line up. There are 5000 runners here, and while that’s not a huge number, there is only limited space at the start line – so they really encouraged runners to line up with their anticipated finish time. Well, I was hoping to finish in two hours, but I was coughing up mucous and really had my eyes on the Harrisburg Marathon (28 days after this run), so I decided to start the race with my sister, running like an asshole4.

So, rather than start with those hoping for a two-hour finish, I started with those who were just hoping to finish. I crossed the start line with my sister, yelled “I love you” over my shoulder, and went out to attack the course.

The thing about starting like I started, though, is that it really only works when there’s not “bunching.” And the first several miles, I had to contend with crowds . . . people were lined all of the way up about the route, and I had to slow down to avoid running people over.

The first mile I ran was well over 9:30, and the second one was even slower. I wasn’t going to be discouraged by my end time.

But, then the crowd thinned out a little bit, and I hit my stride.

That runner’s high? I was there.

I honestly don’t remember too many details between miles 4 and 10.

I talked with those who started conversations around me (usually about my shoes or running tights)5, but it really was just me against the course on a day with absolute perfect weather. Every now & then, I’d get a cue from Runkeeper telling me my time & distance, but I never was doing any of the calculations to determine where I’d finish. I was “running the course,” and I was happy.

I hit mile marker 10, realizing that there was “only” a 5k left when I saw someone holding a sign in the distance. It was the 2:00:00 pacers, and I spent the next three miles trying to catch up with them. At mile marker 13, I caught them, and left them behind as I started my sprint.

Me at the finish lineI crossed the finish line and the timer read 2:01:01 . . . but I knew it had to be at least 1:01 from the actual start gun to when my chip crossed the start line. My own time had me somewhere around 1:56:00 . . . and when I finally checked, I had completed in 1:55:38. I’m quite proud of myself.

The run was downright gorgeous – cold at the start, but once we started moving,the temperature was perfect. All run long, there was a constant breeze, but never enough to actually fight you.

The actual course, well, it was funky. See, they didn’t want to close a whole lot of roads, so we ran through a lot of the Hershey Park parking lots – which doesn’t really make for some great scenery. When we left the actual park, it was hillier than I anticipated, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Harrisburg or Gettysburg marathons. Unlike those marathons, though, there were few times that there weren’t observers cheering us on . . . and, really, there’s nothing better than to hear cheering as you’re running and then see a line of kids with their arms outstretched, asking for high-fives. I made it my mission to not miss a single outstretched hand.

At the end, there was chocolate aplenty, but as we all know, I’m defective and don’t like chocolate, so I got a “lunch bag” with an apple, pretzels, a large oatmeal cookie, chocolate, and chocolate milk – putting the latter two aside for my wife. I parked myself at the finish line and greeted Jessica with a hug when she finished.

Hershey Half Marathon MedalIt was a good run.

1 Yes, I shower before running 13.1 miles. First, my body seems to find its “get up & go” more easily after I’ve showered, and next, um, there’s a little issue with “manscaping” that I need to do, to minimize chafing. See, in no way am I svelte, in fact, I’m quite beefy. There are people who have legs that don’t touch when they walk. I, on the other hand, have two thighs that rub together a whole lot – anything that I can to so that I can minimize the amount of rubbing – be it against skin or hair, I do . . . read more about this when I detail the morning routine from my recap of my first marathon.
2 I should have laid my clothes out the night before, but I was exhausted. Because of this, I couldn’t find the compression shirt that I wanted – which meant that I wore a shirt that was a size too small . . . which meant that it kept riding up, exposing my ample belly, meaning that I ran the entire run with my running jacket on.
3 We both wanted to make sure that there was “nothing left,” as there is little worse than having to stop in the middle of a race to pee, especially if you’re aiming for a specific time . . . and I’m pretty sure that the race organizers would have frowned upon me just “letting it flow.”
4 “Running like an asshole” is a term that I came up with on a chip-timed, but sparsely run, 5k. I waited at the back of the pack for awhile, crossed the start line when I was good & ready, and ran the course by myself. I’d pass people, but nobody would pass me.
5 I run in Vibram FiveFingers, and I’m noticing more & more people wearing the same shoes on runs. However, most of the people I passed were in obvious pain. They had never run this distance in these shoes . . . and that’s just silly. Running in Vibrams takes a lot of “learning,” which I got to skip because I actually learned to run in them. People who just started wearing them either had back, hip, and knee pain from landing on their heels without cushioning, or calf pain because they aren’t used to running on the balls of their feet.
  1. Nice race, John! Congrats on crushing the 2-hour mark.

    And “running like an asshole”, LOL.

    • There are some of you who I just knew would enjoy the “run like an asshole” bit. Thanks, Brian 🙂

  2. I don’t think I’ll ever run like an asshole… I don’t think I want to run a half marathon, either, but you do make it all seem so entertaining…

    • I’ve worked insanely hard to “get where I am,” but a half-marathon, now, is “just another run.” And, comparing this to longer & shorter distance runs that I’ve done, it may actually be my favorite distance. I finish & I’m just at the start of “sore,” but I can go about my day with minimal impact.

      At some point, running becomes a lot of fun, and I had a tremendous amount of fun with this race.

  3. That is a great race time! Good for you. True story – I peed 18 times in the hour before my last marathon and STILL had to stop and pee at mile two.

    • I did the same before my last marathon – but lasted until mile marker 6 before I had to pee (there was a line of trees . . . sometimes, there are true advantages to being a guy)

  4. Ok, my question about your marathon has been answered. Why am I not getting email notifications about your posts? I’m signing up again. Congrats on a great race. You are a good man slapping those hands. I thank all the volunteers, but I’m not usually a hand slapper 🙂

    • You haven’t been getting email notifications because I screwed up…plain & simple.

      A good part of the race was in and around the Milton Hershey school, which is school for under-privileged kids . . . it would have been difficult to not hand-slap.

  5. Were you playing the guy or the doll?

    (I’m so sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

    And I once spent the night in the Baltimore Aquarium.

    Oh, those wild Girl Scout days.

    • You know, when we got to the aquarium, there were a bunch of Girl Scouts that were packing up after spending the night . . . I thought it was the coolest overnight idea, ever.

      I played the doll, of course.

  6. p.s. Do you not have buttons to go back to previous post while having one post open? ‘Cause that button would be awesome. Unless you do have it and I’m just silly.

  7. Regardless of shoe choice, I’d be in pain.

    No chocolate? Really? OMG. I bought a big bag of m&ms today b/c I can eat chocolate again tomorrow.

    • You know how some people hate spinach or Brussels sprouts? That’s how I feel about chocolate . . . if there’s just a little bit of cocoa in something, it ruins everything.

      But, my not eating it means more for you 🙂

      I’m very excited about a final wrap-up post from the detox.

  8. I wish I could have been there. The logistics to get there and up early were just not enough to entice me to join you. Some day… I am definitely ready to run a half now, after doing 22 miles in 36 hours for Ragnar a few weeks ago. The longer runs are not bothering me as much any more, even though I only get out to run 2-3 times per week lately.

    • It does sound, to me, like you’re certainly ready for a half – we’ll have to find one to run together, soon.

  9. Good job.
    Also. I love neti pots.

    • The concept completely grossed me out . . . . until I made myself try it for a week. Now, I need my neti pot.

      And thanks.

  10. Oh, you! Seriously, go you!


    “Ran like an asshole” might e one of my favorite lines. EVER.


    Seriously way to go! So very proud of you!

    • I still remember the 5k when I realized that I was running like an asshole – passing people all of the way. The thing is, whenever I’m running, I try to make it completely non-competitive with the other runners – it’s me & the course (or, this time, me & the clock), but when a big fat man passes you, I guess I bring out the competitive nature in other people.

  11. I’m SURE you get tired of hearing me say this, but my lord, you do inspire me. And truly, I plan on getting my bum out there and doing something about it. Last year I got all the gear for cold weather running — because that’s *so* when to start. But, that also means I’m one step closer to actually doing something I want to do! You really do inspire many people with your committement, John. I hope you realize that (and not just with running. In many other area’s, too)

    • Kim – this truly means a lot to me. I write here to chronicle my day – hopefully to get a chuckle out of some, or get a laugh out of others. I never think about inspiring others, but if that comes as a side-effect, well, there are far worse things.

      As a complete aside, I started running in November (a year later, I was running my first marathon), and it sucked. But, I have a lot of cold-weather running gear. It holds parts of my body tight, so I’ll wear it to make myself feel skinny 🙂

  12. You say “I woke up and ran a half-marathon” like it’s no big deal. Dude, that’s a big deal. You’re awesome and you know it. Anyone who can say they ran “like an asshole” is awesome in my book.

    • Here’s the thing – I can run a half-marathon like it’s no big deal . . . in 22 days, I’ll run the Harrisburg full marathon, and that will be a “big deal” (I ran the race last year, but the course kicked my ass — the first 18 miles are pretty easy, as far as running goes . . . the last 8.2 are horrible).

  13. That’s so awesome, John. Very proud of you (and your asshole sister).

  14. SOunds like a great race. Can you tell me a bit about the elevation of the race? I saw the map and it looked fairly flat, but I am from Florida. I am very tempted to do this race as it is close to my Parents home so I can combine racing with parental visit!!!!
    I’m returning to running after a hip surgery, and they dont want me to race on hills. Looks like a fun time. though might be cold for a florida gal….

    • A big portion of the race was in parking lots . . . and they’re, by definition, flat – and most of the rest of the run was, well, pretty flat as well. There were some hills, and the gradual uphills & downhills that you’ll get just about anywhere, but it was the flattest half-marathon that I’d ever run (including my training runs, which I’ve always considered to be relatively flat).

      • Thanks. I heard from some folks that it was terribly hilly and that the hils just kept coming and coming. If they are little rollers of hills then that is perfect, I Love a rolling course, as long as it rolls, rather than just goes up a lot.

        My dad ran both Gettysburg and Harrisburg back in the 80’s Both are courses that I will never be brave enough to attempt due to hills. For my Big deal Marathon I am sticking with Space Coast!

        • Thinking back, the park, itself, was incredibly hilly — Hershey Park, itself, is far from flat. However, that was the only time in the run that I even noticed the hills. So, maybe 10 out of the 13 miles were next to flat, and those other three . . . well, I’d call them rolling.

          The Gettysburg marathon, on the other hand – yeah, that’s just crazy. From beginning to end, it’s hilly. There’s are some very hilly parts of the Harrisburg Marathon, in its current course, but it’s mostly flat. The only thing is, all of the hills show up at the 18 mile mark.

        • As you can see, it’s a pretty flat course, with one hilly area (and one significant hill):

          Most of the run is between an elevation of 400 & 430 feet.

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